"I am not sure who wrote this, as the only place I was able to find this on the Internet was in a Reddit post by Shmeelkster, so until I am told differently, I am going to credit him/her as the author. Either way, it is a fantastic piece of work and if you ever run accross the need to answer a theists/creationist argument about there being no meaning to life without god, this has my vote for one of the best replies you can give:"
~Al Stefanelli ( http://networkedblogs.com/83zdT )


http://www.gamaze.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/j0437247.jpg


A WAY OF APPROACHING THE UNIVERSE

You are a tiny speck of insignificant biological material in an immense universe that probably defies your brain’s ability of understanding. Yet you are remarkable, in innumerable ways. Every second of every day you are a walking ecosystem of life, housing trillions of microbes that continuously interact with you to keep both you and them alive. Your body is constantly building and rebuilding itself, encoding information on simple strains of molecules at the speed of jet engines, in each and every nucleus-possessing cell in your body. You are a walking, talking, living, breathing orchestra of life, a beautiful display of the potential inherent in our particular universe.

You are the remarkable product of an unbroken, let me say that again, UNBROKEN line of descendants stretching all the way back to the very first interactions of seemingly pointless inanimate molecules. You share a common ancestry with every living thing ever, including the estimated 106 billion humans who have ever lived. You are tied to the trees and the birds and the small phytoplankton that gently ride the crests and dips of the oceans of this world. You are part of the vibrant tapestry of what we refer to as life, a piece of art that stretches back billions upon billions of years. Everything this universe has thrown at you and your ancestors has been roundly defeated – from harsh radiation, to extraterrestrial objects, to volcanic eruptions and more. You are a symbol of utter perseverance, of the sheer will to continue onwards. You are a cry in the dark, the voice of one who will not be quiet.



So now you’ve realized that there is no inherent meaning to existence. So what? This doesn’t mean life has suddenly lost meaning – it means there was no meaning in the first place. So you haven’t actually lost anything. Instead, you have gained a wonderful opportunity. Give existence the meaning it is seeking. MAKE a purpose for yourself. Maybe it should be your kids, or maybe it should be giving from the bounty you have (because let us face reality – if you have an internet connection and personal computer, you are in the top 10%, maybe even the top 1%, of humanity). Maybe you should learn a new skill, explore a new facet of creation that you never realized was open to you.



So why do you teach a toddler how to behave? Because maybe that toddler will be the one to find other life, other existence in our so far lonely universe. Or maybe they will be the father, the mother, the close friend, the lover, the supporter of the one who does. Or maybe they will be the person to speak out at just the right moment, the one to stand up and stand out, who will provide the inspiration, or the moment of connection for the person who does. Or maybe that toddler will be the one to protect the life around us from an otherwise inevitable end, from the sucking void of empty existence that we struggle against every second of our being.



Are you just a breeder? Just biology? What an insult to biology! Just?!? I forgive you, because you know not what you say :D You are the product of a few basic particles, a few basic forces, yet you are impossibly complex, impossibly intricate. The sheer unlikeliness of your very existence is staggering, and yet here you are. The title of “breeder” is just a single facet of what you are. You can be a teacher, a leader, a thinker, a cook, a scientist, an artist, a musician, a protector, an enlightener, a champion, a peacemaker, a lover, a friend, a companion, a confidant… the list is a vast as the seemingly infinite complexities of neuron interactions in the collection of molecular structures known as cells in your brain.



And let us not end our poetic license there, for if all that is true, than this is also: There is something after death. The part of you that continues to exist in all life around you will never cease to be, not as long as things from this planet continue to live. You will continue on, interminably, from the beginning of life to its end potentially countless aeons from now, if ever. Maybe through some fluke you will be the Eve for humanity in the future, the one woman every human will trace their ancestry back to. Maybe not. But who can tell what the future holds. Rather than collapse under the imagined weight of nothingness, I posit that you should grasp hold of your life, and take it to heights heretofore unseen.



Views: 149

Comment by Wesley on September 19, 2010 at 11:39pm
Fantastic... I also came across some good answers to the meaning and purpose questions over on the Atheist Experience site from Tracie..

http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/2010/09/purpose-and-meaning-w...
Comment by Gaytor on September 20, 2010 at 12:32pm
I can't seem to find an earlier source on Google either.

@Wiilailla: I would take your response to a meaning of life as too narrow.

Meaning : definition
1. Something that is conveyed or signified; sense or significance.
2. Something that one wishes to convey, especially by language
3. An interpreted goal, intent, or end.
4. Inner significance.

I believe that I can hit three out of the four definitions.

2.) I convey my wishes and mind to many through writings and conversations. These writings and conversations have effect on others that may change the direction of their lives and hence are meaningful at times, to some.

3) The goal of my life is to better the life of my family through opportunities and education. The end of my life is not the end of my effect. In fact, the end of my sentient existence is not the end of my being. I will give my body to science, extending the effect of my life for generations. I will donate my organs giving life to one that is either unfulfilled or about to end. The compounds in my body will be exploded again into the universe either aiding another life or becoming a part of an unborn star one day.

4) My life serves my inner significance in protecting other life. Others will use my physical work for hundreds of years past my life. (suspension bridge for example)
Comment by Gaytor on September 20, 2010 at 1:35pm
An Oak Tree cannot convey it's thoughts, have intent, or inner significance. It is not sentient and doesn't meet the standards of the definitions.

Semantics is disagreeing over meaning of words. So if we are talking about my life having meaning to Sirius the Star, I have to agree with you. If we are talking about our lives having value and impact, I have to disagree with you. Even on the point of the river rolling along, I may end up being a dam buster and allow the life in the river more freedom and the Salmon to run at the ecological potential. From the surface, the river will look the same in most places. But the impact is great nonetheless.

Jonas Salk rid the world of Polio. I would suggest that his life and work had meaning far beyond a semantic point. Did he have an initial purpose, I would agree that he didn't. We could delve into history and find many of these examples, so either you agree or disagree with the point.

Most of our impacts are much smaller than Salk's. I have no illusion as to my effect on the universe. No grandiose ideas about saving the world. I do believe that I will have saved dozens of lives with my life's work, and the lack of credit or knowledge isn't relevant, it's just one step to a better world. Assuming that I didn't save a serial killer. I accept that I'm little more than a cog in the wheel. But the wheel knows the impact of me being a cog.
Comment by Gaytor on September 20, 2010 at 3:16pm
Two points, Scale is certainly our difference here. In order to judge meaning as you are requiring, you virtually would need a god to judge meaning in the face of time and in the scale needed, or there is no meaning. Potentially Gravity, Time and Mass may be the only meaningful factors on your scale. My view (scale) is simply does it have meaning to the human race or even in the circle of those impacted by our lives or even a lasting effect in terms of steps in the right direction.

We might be at a misunderstanding on what I'm saying about say Salk. I'm not saying that the vaccine gave meaning to the lives of all of us, but rather that Salk's life had meaning due his impact. His life found meaning in giving life and health to others. Again, that's subject to scale and accept where you are coming from.
Comment by Allen J. Thoma on September 20, 2010 at 3:52pm
How can we apes, evolved for a middle world (as Dawkins has much more elegantly stated it) contemplate the meaning and/or purpose of the universe and our potential part in it?? We can not yet even answer the easy questions relating to basic physics and biology let alone the more complex questions of emergent consciousness or the ultimate evolution of the universe. Of course we have to give our lives personal meaning to survive! But, to find life meaningless is a failure to grasp the distance we as living matter have come from and to chart a course toward greater knowledge and understanding. As Sagen stated we are star stuff risen to consciousness contemplating itself. We are individually insignificant and as a species but a possible stepping stone to raising all matter to consciousness. (Ramblings from an ape brain!!).
Comment by Lisa on September 20, 2010 at 6:03pm
My life has meaning .... to me. And that's really all that matters.
Comment by Pope Beanie on September 21, 2010 at 4:50am
Meaning's in the mind of the beholder. That sounds banal or meaningless by itself, until you realize how universal it is among us. "Meaning" seems to exists in beauty and art (etc), right? There is cosmic/universal stuff that tends to happen among us. (Ok, on the surface maybe that sounds banal, too. Still...)

I feel meaning/purpose every day, and I'm 99% certain that most other humans feel it similarly. I'll even bet that some of the higher animals--especially pack animals with hierarchical social structures--share at least a smidge of "feeling" of meaningfulness and purposefulness at an emotional level and in the context of their pack, despite the fact that they cannot intellectualize it. Or another way to say this is that pack-animal-humans just happen to have the added, huge burden of trying to explain their feelings intellectually. Philosophy and religion result, for better and worse.

I have a favorite explanation for the question of why most people feel that God is a requirement. Remember when there used to be multiple gods? Ah yes, the good old days, back when we first tried to understand and predict the "behavior" of other animals, seasons, and other natural occurrences. Perhaps the easiest/quickest way to understand and predict such behaviors was to empathize or even sympathize with imagined agents or embodiments of nature, as if they were separate entities with minds and motives of their own, but paralleling our own.

Then add language and the ability to communicate and intellectualize with each other, enabling us to invent names and agencies and even images for non-human (and human) behaviors we needed to explain... even before our invention of science and other critical thinking. Now add to that some people's eloquent claims of ability to "hear" what those powerful and sometimes eloquent external agents were saying to them.

I think it just happens that it's been easier to understand and communicate about nature and each other (and eventually our individual selves) couched in terms of empathy and easily presumed "universal consciousness", facilitated by invented names and invented external consciousness and presumed motives that are easiest for us to empathize with and agree on. When city-states evolved and religion was codified in various forms, the hierarchy of powers in culture eventually simplified their manipulation of common people's beliefs and loyalties by invoking and enforcing the power of one leader, or god.

Yikes! So our proclamations, codification, and enforcement of the most authoritative definitions of "meaning of life" were the result of exercises of intellectualization, over-intellectualization, and usurpation/perversion of cultural power and its hierarchy. Perverting philosophy into religion (or "customizing" philosophy, if you prefer a less judgmental analysis) was an effective means of control over the masses, made city-states competitive, and remained culturally married to "civilization" such as it is (for better and worse), for millennia.

So here we are today, trying to communicate how each of us feels about "the meaning of life", while skeptical of religions in their various forms that already lay claim to "meaning". NOTE! It seems to me that just being here, discussing this topic together is proof in itself that there is "meaning" among us that we care about. To be honest, it worries me a little when a few humans--even including a few intelligent scientists--confidently insist that "there is no meaning". (Ok Smartypants Meaningless Atheist/Scientist, I'll bet you can't express that theory in art or in a poem or other human-invented beautiful form, even if you do claim to appreciate George Carlin's humor! Whoops, some of my cynicism leaked out.)

I personally feel (at this time, at least) that "the meaning of life" is at its most basic level to understand nature and ourselves, to co-exist harmoniously and productively and with spare time for pursuit of personal happiness, and to learn to take command of our environment while weighing its risk to said harmony.

(Furthermore, now my ability to over-intellectualize and write one or more paragraphs too many leads me to speculate on how other beings in the universe discuss these things. Is there one or more "cosmic consciousness" forming anywhere out there, voluntarily or not, and/or is it a bloody battleground of over-intellectualizations? Meh, never mind, just stick to family and friends and Earth, and maybe a few German philosophers and composers and French artists for now. Perhaps mankind's health and collective/personal cognitive surpluses will increase significantly again, someday.)
Comment by NoSacredCow on September 21, 2010 at 8:17am
To my cat my life has meaning.
Comment by Bill on September 21, 2010 at 11:22am
@willailla, I know what you mean!
Comment by Wesley on September 25, 2010 at 12:10am
"meaning'..just like "knowledge" is relative... If it 'means' something to you that is enough. What the fuck is 'Ultimate meaning'?.... that's the 'ultimate strawman' as far as I'm concerned.

Put your life in context... How does what you do affect others? Do you find meaning and purpose in being productive and helpful with your family? With your community? That's a ton of 'meaning' right there... AGain.. FUCK the ultimates.. We don't deal with ultimates ... All we have is right now and the brief forseeable future.

Pick up your trash...Don't piss in other peoples cornflakes...etc.. Help someone when they need it... Try to be there for your family... There's literally TONS of Meaning if you just look for it.

Finally.. we might not mean much to Sirius the star... But a star perhaps much like Sirius may mean something to us......since that is what we are made of. "We are made of star stuff" "We are a way for the universe to know itself".. Carl Sagan Literalists beware.. What I'm basically saying is that we are 'meaning making machines'... Its what we do.

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